False advertising for a cereal offender

Fruit with your morning cereal is good for you …. Right?  But what if there is more fruit on the box than there is in the cereal itself?

That is what happened this month when the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission examined some of the supposedly fruity products of food giant Sanitarium.

The ACCC found that the company’s Weet-Bix Apricot Bites had only 6.5% of the fruit, even though the packet carried colourful pictures of apricots and the small print claimed it was meant to include 15 per cent. Similarly their Wild Berry Bites containing just 6.8 % of berries; Granola Clusters had only 2.4% of fruit compared with the advertised 6%, and their Light ‘n’ Tasty Triple Berry cereal had a fruit content of just 3% instead of 8% as advertised on the box.

So what did the company do to protect its self-proclaimed reputation as one of Australia’s most trusted brands?

According to the ACCC, Sanitarium acknowledging a potential breach of the Trade Practices Act and promised to start listing fruit contents properly.  And the company’s formal legal undertakings can be seen on the ACCC website.

But judging from Sanitarium’s own website, transparency seems to be off the menu when dealing with reputational risk.  A search of their “news” section reveals no sign whatever of their transgression, nor their undertaking to the Federal regulator.

Instead the corporate message to consumers is: “We take a responsible, socially sensitive approach to advertising with our aim to always inspire the community to make healthier food and lifestyle choices.”

The difference between brand and reputation is that brand is what you say about yourself, while reputation is what other people say about you.  The Sanitarium approach to Corporate Responsibility seems to be that if you don’t tell anyone, maybe they’ll never find out.


About managingoutcomes

Issue and crisis management expert
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